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Unwed fathers may have to battle to win child custody rights

Unwed fathers may be at a disadvantage. If a man's relationship with his former partner is strained, a father may not even realize he has a child. When he discovers he is a father, he may not understand that he has certain rights that must be protected if he hopes to establish a bond with the child or obtain child custody. Along with those rights, however, go important responsibilities.

The unwed father must establish paternity; otherwise, the mother has no obligation to allow him to communicate with the child or make any decisions about the care and well-being of the child. If the mother names the man on the child's birth certificate, the law accepts that he is the biological father. If his name is omitted from the birth certificate, the father can acknowledge paternity by completing the appropriate documentation with the local health department in Tennessee.

It may be necessary for the father to establish paternity by taking a blood test. The mother will have to allow the same test for the child, or the court may order her to do so. Once paternity is established, the father may file for custody rights. He is not likely to obtain full custody if the child's mother is a fit parent. However, he may win shared custody with the right legal assistance.

Fathers seeking child custody and other parental rights must also realize that along with confirming paternity comes the obligation to financially support the child. Often Tennessee parents can work out an arrangement that the court will approve, but sometimes the attempts to win parental rights become a courtroom battle. In such cases, it is recommended to have the assistance of an experienced attorney from the earliest possible moment in the procedure.

Source: thespruce.com, "What a Father's Rights Are if Not Married", Wayne Parker, Accessed on Dec. 9, 2017

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